21 Chilling Horror Novels To Read This Spooky Season

Detail from the cover of My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. Photo Courtesy: Quirk Books

Fall is here, and with it comes the urge to slow down, relax, grab a pumpkin-spiced beverage, and fill your life with…terror. Yes, spooky season is upon us, and while you could pop some popcorn and curl up with a horror flick for an evening, we love the slow burn of spine-chilling novel. From thrilling mysteries to edge-of-your-seat paranormal adventures to a book that even Stephen King calls, “Deeply, deeply disturbing”, all of these horror stories make for must-read, hair-raising fun.

Horror Novels With Creepy Characters

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix 

Photo Courtesy: Quirk Books

Growing pains are hard enough — but demon possession makes being a teen even harder for Gretchen in Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Her best friend, Abby, notices that Gretchen is not acting like herself as they transition into high school. Is it just a phase, or is something wicked taking over? 

What would it be like to literally see through someone else’s eyes? Molly finds just that out when she begins to see through the eyes of a girl from a century ago. In Kathryn Reiss’ thrilling novel, the reader follows along as Molly’s nightmares turn into reality, altering her perspective forever. 

A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan 

Photo Courtesy: Little, Brown and Company

Obsession and opportunity meet in this creepy and calamitous novel by Beth Morgan. A Touch of Jen follows Remy and Alicia, who bond over a fixation on a woman named Jen. The duo gets a chance to spend time with Jen — but things take an unexpected turn. Fantasy and reality come together in this gripping novel that takes readers on a wild ride into unforeseen terror and unbelievable circumstances.

Hide by Kiersten White

Photo Courtesy: Penguin Random House

Would you spend a week hiding in a haunted amusement park for a huge cash prize? In Hide, Mack does just that. A contestant with an unsettling past, Mack is an expert at hiding, but she soon discovers the terrifying truth behind the contest. As other competitors disappear, Mack isn’t sure if she’s playing to win or playing to survive. 

The chilling park is enough to set your hair on edge while the fast-paced story keeps you on your toes. New York Times bestselling young adult author Kiersten White, takes readers on a frightening trip into a haunted park and offers a spectacular spooky season ride.

Horror Novels From Authors at the Top of Their Craft

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Photo Courtesy: HarperCollins Publishers 

Megan Giddings’ Lakewood has found a spot on New York Magazine’s “Ten Best Books of 2020” list and deserves a spot on your horror novels reading list, too. Lena, a Black millennial, is searching for a way to support her family when she agrees to participate in a secret program in Lakewood. She soon stumbles across eerie truths that lead her to make devastating decisions. But how far will she go — and what’s she willing to give up?

The Hunger by Alma Katsu 

Photo Courtesy: Penguin Random House

Have you heard of the Donner Party? Well, these unfortunate West Coast-bound travelers and their infamous fate are at the center of this incredible novel. Award-winning author Alma Katsu delivers a fascinating spin on the horrifying Donner Party story. The Hunger centers on Tamsen Donner as her wagon undergoes seemingly endless struggles; does the group have bad luck? Or maybe Tamsen is a witch? Or, perhaps even worse, is something dangerous lurking in the shadows?

My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham

Photo Courtesy: Sourcebooks Fire Publishers

Kayla Cottingham captures readers in her yarn as she weaves a story about a seductive evil in My Dearest Darkest. After almost drowning in a terrible accident, Finch Chamberlain arrives as a transfer student at Ulalume Academy. She is drawn to fellow student Selena St.Clair, and is simultaneously connecting with a dangerous and powerful entity as she tries to adjust to her new life.The pair is tempted by an evil that promises to fulfill their desires, but the creature’s insatiable thirst for flesh forces them to join together to stop it before it’s too late. 

Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi Demeester

Photo Courtesy: Macmillan Publishers

Young Lila and her mother Caroline are both haunted by a darkness that is both dangerous and seductive in Kristi Demeester’s Such a Pretty Smile. Lila feels a destructive force growing stronger inside her without any support while her mother navigates being a caretaker, an artist, and the delusions that are taking over her life. 

Such a Pretty Smile uncovers the secrets buried in Caroline’s mind while exploring the complexities of shifting family dynamics. This spooky tale is frightening enough to send a tingle down your spine.

Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Photo Courtesy: Penguin Random House

Award-winning author Bethany C. Morrow explores the relationship between two Black teenage girls in a home marked by a horrifying force in Cherish Farrah. As her family faces foreclosure, Farrah draws closer to her best friend Cherish and tries to insert herself into her family. 

But things are not uncomplicated in Cherish’s house either. As strange things begin to unfold in Cherish’s home, Farrah’s family warns her that something is just not right. But is she in too deep? This thriller has so many twists and turns, it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

The Haunting of Orchard Hill: A Hopeful Horror Novel by Sara Crocoll Smith

Photo Courtesy: https://www.saracrocollsmith.com/

When Nina is taken in by a mysterious elderly woman after escaping from her abusive husband with her son, she is relieved. But that relief runs cold as she discovers that there may be secrets hiding beneath the surface of this new safe haven, Orchard Hill. Sara Crocoll Smith brilliantly showcases horror in broad daylight and highlights how sometimes the greatest dangers aren’t lurking in the shadows but in the bright heat of the day.

Horror Novels Set in Disturbing Worlds

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones 

Photo Courtesy: Penguin Random House

The Salt Line propels readers into a future where disease-carrying ticks threaten humanity. A salt line that’s been placed around the United States’ borders protects those within it, but when a group of thrill-seekers decides to take a trip outside the protective boundary, they learn that there’s more to fear than they could have ever imagined. 

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica 

Photo Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

Tender is the Flesh is a frightening novel by Argentinian writer Agustina Bazterrica that explores the meaning of humanity and connection — all with a chilling twist. In Bazterrica’s second novel, a man struggles to survive in a world where eating animal flesh is forbidden but eating human flesh — or “special meat” — is legal. When Marco gets an unexpected gift, he forms a relationship that threatens his survival, forcing him to choose between his life as-is — and what could be. 

Quantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross

Photo Courtesy: Macmillan Books

British author Charles Stross is known for crafting elaborate worlds in the science fiction and horror genres. In Quantum of Nightmares, the critically acclaimed author lives up to his incredible reputation. 

Fissures emerge in the foundation of alternate reality Britain, ruled by a ruthless leader,  as some citizens gain unusual and largely unregulated powers. The struggles for control and sinister plans that follow are woven together in Quantum of Nightmares, with results that will leave you speechless.

Your Mind Is A Terrible Thing by Hailey Piper

Photo Courtesy: Off Limits Press LLC

Your Mind is a Terrible Thing by Hailey Piper follows anxious communications specialist Alito aboard a starship that has been compromised by a chilling intruder. After discovering that members of the crew have vanished, Alito begins to learn more about the monster who may be responsible for the disappearances. 

When Alito learns that the creature is capable of hacking into his psyche and controlling his mind, he enters fight against mind-control and time for a chance at survival. Will he survive or will the violent intruder prevail?

Horror Novels With a History Twist

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Photo Courtesy: HarperCollins Publishers 

Asylum from Madeleine Roux’s series of the same name is a magnificently hair-raising addition to your fall reading list. Dan Crawford is eager to turn over a new leaf at New Hampshire Prep, but when he discovers that his dorm used to be an asylum, he and his friends uncover secrets that rock them to the core. Can this misfit and his buddies survive the aftermath of their discoveries? 

Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss 

Photo Courtesy: Harcourt Childrens Books

When Abby begins to suspect that something supernatural may be responsible for her friend’s strange behavior, she decides it may be time for a good old-fashioned exorcism. But will her efforts be enough — or will both young women succumb to the dark force inside Gretchen?

Horror Novels For Fans of Crime Fiction and Murder Mysteries

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Photo Courtesy: Macmillan Books

What’s once thought of as a child’s adorable artwork turns into something more alarming. How? Well, when young Teddy’s babysitter, Mallory, notices the similarities between the dark drawings and an old unsolved murder, she teams up with an unlikely group to discover the truth in Jason Rekulak’s gripping, spine-chilling novel Hidden Pictures.

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Photo Courtesy: Penguin Random House

Beth Greer was charged in the gruesome Lady Killer murders in 1977, but was soon after acquited. Forty years later Shea Collins’ interest in true crime brings her closer to the eccentric murder suspect. Shea becomes both more entranced by Beth and more unnerved as she interviews her for her true crime website. Is she truly innocent?  Is there something wicked behind Greer’s charm? Or is Shea noticing darker, supernatural forces at play? 

As the truth unfolds and nothing is quite as it seems. The Book Of Cold Cases is a chilling tale from award-winning Simone St.James and a perfect addition to your fall book list! 

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

Photo Courtesy: Ballantine Books

Julia Heaberlin’s We Are All the Same in the Dark delves into a town that’s haunted by unsolved crimes: A missing girl’s brother is a social pariah living in isolation; a local cop is haunted by her memory; and a town is reeling from the loss of a member of the community. When local cop Odette Tucker commits herself to solving a missing persons case, she not only confronts her traumatic past, but unearths secrets that will change everything. 

Superstitious by R.L. Stine

Photo Courtesy: Grand Central Publishing

Famed children’s author R.L. Stine switches gears from Goosebumps and delivers something disturbing for adults. In Stine’s Superstitious, Liam is a college professor whose superstitions become reality. As a series of mysterious murders happen around him, Liam must race to expose the evil at the heart of it all begins, despite the potentially deadly consequences.

Need a Quick Read? Forget Novels — and Try Short Stories Instead

Photo Courtesy: Simon & Schuster

Shirley Jackson award-winning author Laird Barron is delivering all the thrills and chills in Occultation and Other Stories. These shorts are bone-chilling fantasies from the mind of an author who’s known for his dark fantasy writing. Here, Barron doesn’t hold back — at all. If you’re already a fan, these otherworldly stories will delight you.

Beach Bodies: A Beach Vacation Horror Anthology edited by Ben Long and Andrew Robert

Photo Courtesy: DarkLit Press

Ben Long and Andrew Robert join forces as the editors of this electrifying anthology of vacation-themed horror. Each story finds a unique way to put the terror in terrible beach vacations. Everything from dead bodies in the surf, to ancient curse, and so much more can be found in this anthology, featuring an array of talented horror writers. 

This anthology offers 16 different sinister stories. It’s great for readers looking for an opportunity to dip their toes into a plethora of chilling options.